Counselor: Drug user hurts those around them

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 17, 2003

"Drug abuse is a disease," said The Counseling Center's Executive Director Ed Hughes. "And it's the only disease that tells you that you don't have it."

At The Counseling Center alone, counselors in both Scioto and Lawrence counties open an average of 16 to 20 new cases during any given month, sometimes more, sometimes fewer. Some of the new patients are walk-ins; others are referred by the courts or employers.

"A lot of people who are court-ordered don't want to come initially," counselor Bill Peck said. "But then they come and discover how far along they are in their addiction. We try to be an instrument in the process and give them what they need to recover. Addiction is slang for adaptation. The body, the mind and the lifestyle are adapted to this chemical. You take the chemical away, and the body quits working, the mind quits working."

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Hughes said drug abuse cuts across all age groups and socioeconomic levels. Counselors are seeing the initial age of the user get younger and younger.

"The age of the user is coming down," Hughes said. "And what we're seeing is a rapid progression of addiction. We're seeing young people become much more rapidly addicted to narcotics. No one sets out to be a drug addict. When someone has that first drink or takes a pill for the first time, they don't set out to be an addict. They don't think that someday they might be robbing a neighbor's house to supply their habit."

There is some good news. Hughes said the age of initial appearance for treatment is also on the decline, which means people are coming in for help at an earlier age, rather than continuing to deny their drug use during their teen and young adult years before admitting they need help.

"Families are especially devastated by drug abuse," Hughes said. "We see young people, a year in high school, maybe doing well, and the next year they're before a judge for possession of sale or distribution of a narcotic."

Hughes said families can also be very instrumental in getting help for their loved ones who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. Families, he said, need to be educated as well about the disease and how to intervene in the life and addiction of a loved one.

Peck said faith often plays a very large part in helping the substance abuser kick their addiction, and in helping their family cope with the process of recovery as well.

"We believe there is a spiritual foundation to recovery," Peck said. "It helps them break through and accept the things they have to do to recover. Tough as it is, you can recover from it."